Valheim Flaws and how to fix them

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While I highly enjoy Valheim for it's creative building system, interesting world generation, and thematic Norse environment. Valheim still has some severe fundamental problems that prevent it from reaching the potential of the amazing game it could strive to be. I'd be willing to point out specifically 3 major issues that hurt the overall game experience and I hope that these three problems are addressed before fully fledged new levels are released to the game. I find that the best way to address these problems is by directly comparing them to the most popular genre games that Valheim takes the most influence from, Souls and Minecraft to help grasp how these games make use of these mechanics where Valheim faulters in it's combat.

Food, Max HP, & Armor

How Valheim works – Eat your choice of 3 pieces of food with different effects on HP, Stamina, and Length of Time. Effects decay slowly over time, Potions allow you to heal; HP Scale = 25 – 270, Armor requires resources from new locations with stronger enemies, grants massive defensive boost at no downside

How Souls Works – Estus and Consumables recover your current health, Maximum Health gain requires leveling up that directly prevents you from increasing damage/carry weight/magic/etc with those resources; HP Scale = 600 – 2000, Armor is free flowing, weaker armor provides mobility, heavy armor stunts mobility for defense

How MC works – Food fills a separate hunger bar that determines your Health Regeneration ability (yes/no) Max HP cannot be increased or decreased; HP Scale 20 – 20, Armor requires resources from exploration and decays upon taking damage

So right off the bat that's a lot to take in. It might even seem fine and balanced for all three. But there's a specific problem contained with how these 3 interactions play with each other and you might notice it if you're looking carefully. Valheim doesn't give the player any weaknesses or true tradeoffs for their system while attempting to combine elements from both in sometimes detrimental ways.

If we look at Dark Souls first, Estus is your Food system. This is a highly controlled mechanic that's directly determined by distance between bonfires for it's use. The more controlled you can make a mechanic like this the better because you can determine how challenging you want each trip between bonfires to be to keep your player on his toes. Minecraft in a similar way uses the Hunger Bar system to tell the player when to each to top their health off. Valheim attempts this by combining the two systems so basic Health Potions and the timer system is used to determine how long players can adventure in Valheim before they have to "rest" and restock. I find this conceptually fine by itself and actually a great mechanic that takes influence from both systems and meshes into their game style in an intuitive way. It only breaks because of the rest of the problems with the HP and Armor systems.

Things fall apart though when we compare how Max Health is calculated. Dark Souls carefully ensures that players are roughly a certain level for each location by how they hand out "souls" that players level up with (barring farming). It's perfectly viable for players to stack HP, or damage, or even carry weight for heavier Armor and fight a level based on how their "build" is progressing. These tradeoffs are used to help the player fight their way. Either a Glass Cannon that rolls through every attack and does 15-20% of a bosses health, or an extremely healthy tank that can block and shrug off blows in a slugfest. Or even something inbetween those. Minecraft opts for a more linear system. Max HP is the constant where better weapons and Armor will generally allow you to fight more comfortably vs enemies, the constantly degradation of gear means that you're still encouraged to use lower tier gear, and the longterm punishment for taking durability damage often outweighs the immediate health damage.

Valheim takes the scaling HP gain of Dark Souls (And cranks it to 11), with the linear gear progression of Minecraft without the durability and unfortunately missing that these two systems cannot functionally stand by one another without weaknesses ends up causing severe problems with scaling. The extreme variance found within the ability to massively uptier your character in this way means that enemies can never be balanced around the player as they will either need to do extreme damage to counteract the player's potential upside (Think 1-shotting Deathsqueetos) or the enemy will be so inept once you reach a certain tier of gear that you simply walk over them without thinking. This results in often unfun combat that is either unfair to the player, or ignorable by the player.

The Fix

So obviously anyone can point out a problem, but providing a fix for that problem is significantly harder, especially without the ability to playtest your own suggestions. So if anyone else wants to attempt to point out suggested fixes I'd recommend it since having a brainstorm here is the best method to a solution. For me, I see three major issues that can be toned down to provide a semblance of balance without attempting to dive too deep into numbers.

Firstly, Max HP needs to be significantly tweaked. there is a 1080% increase difference between 25 and 270. That's hilariously absurd. In my opinion Dark Souls and it's 300+% increase for about 600 to 2000 is just a little too much. I'd recommend bringing up the minimum health from 25 to 50 so that you aren't one shot by everything that looks at you, and lowering max health to 150 which feels much more in line with how health gain should be. This way enemies can still be threatening and challenging without either one-shotting you, or collapsing at the sight of you.

Secondly, armor should have different "styles" i.e Light, Medium, Heavy. or even just Light and Heavy to keep it simple. Obviously Heavy Armor should be bulky and protective but be weighty enough that your encumbrance suffers, maybe heavy armor prevents knockback. Maybe Greatshields while wearing Heavy Armor suffer less stamina damage (Shields are another problem with the game but that's a topic for another time.) While Light Armor is flowy, has less protection, but has little encumbrance restriction. Maybe Light Armor improves your roll distance, maybe you gather faster in light armor, maybe sprinting uses less stamina. Give the player tradeoffs and encourage the usage of both for different purposes. Maybe the player will say "Hm I made Heavy Bronze Armor, let me try Light Iron Armor".

Finally, Food. The system in which food works, as I said before, is fine. But there are still plenty of flaws that can and should be worked out. Firstly more than anything. If there's a chest nearby a cooking container, allow us to use the Chest as a surrogate inventory so we don't have to pull out all our materials then cook, then put them all back. It's somewhat tedious and pointless. Also if we have the ability to cook more than 1 item in a pot, let us cook them in 1 click. I don't mind if you have to wait longer to get them, but having to click, wait 5 seconds, click, wait 5 seconds. It's honestly more annoying than just clicking once and waiting a minute. Similarly, allow us to instantly store cooked food directly into an adjacent chest instead of cooking it into our inventory and storing the extras, if done this way you could even allow the player to start the stew then leave as the items are going into a chest. These QoL changes would just make the whole cooking experience less tedious for the player.

Overall, I love Valheim as a game and it's potential is through the roof. I've gotten tons of hours of enjoyment playing with my friends and while I'm excited for more content, I'm worried about what might happen if most of these flaws aren't fixed since they're only going to get uglier and harder to fix as more content is released.


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